IF he had his way, Nelson Chamisa said on Wednesday, he would not have participated in an election without his demanded reforms.
But as “a leader who is democratic”, he yielded to the people, including traditional leaders, war veterans, serving officials in government and party structures.
In any case, having done his best – 74 well attended rallies and counting – “God is going to do the rest and we know that it’s going to be a miracle.”
At his Wednesday press conference, possibly his last before Monday’s election, Chamisa listed no less than six major complaints against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which he called a referee that’s siding with a player – President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
These revolve around the voters roll, ballot paper, partisan state media, sensitive election material as well as polling personnel to be deployed by ZEC.
Chamisa’s frustration was heightened by ZEC’s refusal, at Tuesday’s multi-party meeting, to accede to the opposition demands.
“It’s clear that we have a ZEC that is biased, we have a ZEC that has lost the confidence and trust of the people of Zimbabwe,” Chamisa declared.
The contested process, Chamisa argued, diminished hopes for an uncontested outcome.
Yet God and an anticipated avalanche of opposition votes, should still triumph over the ruling party’s cheating, aided by ZEC, Chamisa reasoned.
Added to this is intelligence showing that Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF were running scared, he said.
The part of Chamisa’s press conference where he rattled his sabre, surrounded by glum-looking party officials and his partners in the coalition, was, in many respects, reminiscent of the MDC-T’s disastrous 2013 campaign. As have been some of his recent pronouncements.
God showed me
Chamisa’s 2018 declaration that his victory is guaranteed by God is similar to his claim, five years ago, that “God showed me in my dreams that Morgan Tsvangirai is going to win with a close margin, between 53 and 56%,” according to Phillan Zamchiya, a scholar close to the MDC, who shadowed Tsvangirai’s last presidential campaign.
“I noticed that invoking divine intervention made it easier for Chamisa to push through some of his political positions without labouring logic, reasons and evidence,” Zamchiya wrote. “Those who opposed him could have their moral standing in a largely Christian community questioned.”
The final voters’ roll used in the 2013 election was famously delivered, in physical form and carted by a truck, on the eve of polling. By then, it had become a common refrain at
Tsvangirai’s rallies, press conferences and briefings with observers and diplomats.
Tsvangirai, however, remained upbeat about his prospects of causing an upset, carried by an avalanche of votes.
The MDC-T rallies had, after all, been well attended throughout the campaign, with the highlight being the July 29 ‘Cross over’ rally in Harare, where an estimated 30,000 people turned up.
Zamchiya recounts a conversation he had with Chamisa after that final campaign rally.
“There is a spiritual dimension to this aspect; that is why no single rally has flopped. I have not eaten for the past three weeks. I have not even taken water. God is amazing, my voice is still OK and my body is still in shape. I am satisfied. As organising secretary, I have run the best campaign ever with meagre resources,” he quotes Chamisa as saying.
Tsvangirai himself predicted a rural revolt against ZANU-PF.
‘An avalanche of votes’
Despite blatant violations of electoral rules in favour of the ruling party, the opposition will next week head to the polls under Chamisa, as they did in 2013 led by Tsvangirai.
The 2013 violations were particularly egregious. ZANU-PF, then led by former President Robert Mugabe, had unilaterally pushed enacted electoral law amendments using a controversial presidential decree. It has been alleged, without being proven, that ZANU-PF had also manufactured a court case which saw the Supreme Court order an election before July 31, 2013.
These actions triggered an emergency summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc, at which Tsvangirai was reportedly warned against participating in the election, should Mugabe persist with his plans.
Tsvangirai did participate, on the expectation that the overwhelming support he enjoyed would overwhelm any plans ZANU-PF had to rig the election. The result? He polled roughly half of Mugabe’s 2.1 million votes, while ZANU-PF sailed to an easy two-thirds majority in parliament.
On Wednesday, Chamisa exhorted his supporters to “overwhelm” the rigging machinery.
“Let’s stop this cheating. Let us overwhelm their machinations and schemes with our voting in numbers,” he said.
Even as Mugabe orchestrated an early election that the opposition said it did not want, an over-confident Tsvangirai often expressed pity for his adversary, whom MDC officials now considered to be at the mercy of the hawkish side of ZANU-PF, or the ‘chaos faction’ of Mnangagwa as they called it.
At a SAPES debate soon after the June 2013 Maputo SADC summit at which Mugabe suffered rare humiliation at the hands of his peers, opposition lawmaker Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga accused the ‘chaos’ faction of abusing the elderly Mugabe, 89 years old at the time.
In the current election cycle, Chamisa has alternated between pitying Mnangagwa and mocking him.
Chamisa recently told supporters that he sometimes wonders who he is running against, Mnangagwa or his deputy Constantino Chiwenga, who has been campaigning as vigorously as the president.
Considered by many to be the power behind Mnangagwa’s throne, Chiwenga has pulled for his president more than all of Chamisa’s alliance partners put together.
Instead of mocking Mnangagwa and Chiwenga for this, this should perhaps give Chamisa and his allies something to think about.
Welshman Ncube has been committed on the trail, but with no crowds to match his enthusiasm. Tendai Biti is struggling to muster crowds in Harare East. Both of the alliance principals fall short of the grassroots support Douglas Mwonzora has been able to command.
Whereas the MDC Alliance campaign has been highly centralised around Chamisa, Mnangagwa is served by a network of officials, apart from his deputies, who often hold concurrent campaign events across the country.
On Monday, it may be 2013 all over again for the MDC. But it may, at last, be time for Chamisa’s miracle.